From The Heresiac:
The pattern revealed by the graph does, however, show something significant about anti-smoking laws. They aren't really aimed at discouraging smoking, or protecting the health of non-smokers, or even at punishing smokers (as some pro-smoking dissidents like to think). Rather, they are a form of bandwagon-jumping. Measures such as "plain packaging" are seized upon by politicians seeking to prove themselves "relevant" and up-to-date, in much the same way that they pounce upon passing moral panics or promote ideas that seem popular with focus groups. The long-term decline in smoking is a social trend for which politicians would like to claim credit. Introducing "tough" measures that can scarcely fail - because their aim has already been achieved - and which can claim to be both morally virtuous and medically justified is almost too tempting.
An insightful comment. I don't entirely agree - part of the motivation is sustaining the business of anti-smoking - but the gist is spot on, that anti-smoking is about laying claim to something that results from a social trend rather than from government action. And the job - making sure we know the dangers of smoking and providing help for quitters - is done.
We might also consider that there is a degree of frantic worry as the public health interventions seem to have stalled:
We spend millions on anti-smoking, thousands of jobs are involved and...well it has stopped working. So these people seek out new bogie-men to blame, new ways to 'denormalise' smoking and new strategies (requiring more public funding) to deal with the 'biggest preventable cause of death'.
Nobody smoking now - or taking up smoking - doesn't know the health risks. Nobody. The task of public health is done. If people choose not to take note of the warnings that's their business in the same way that the freeclimber knows he might fall off that sheer cliff and the cave diver knows the high chance of drowning.
By all means provide support to people who want to stop. But let's accept that some people prefer the fleeting joy of a fag and accept that it means a high chance of ill-health, a shorter life.
In the end that's their choice, their business.